Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…
Oriole Park was a nice place to visit, but catercorner to it was the part of Camden Yards I wanted to see most. As a fan of comic books for nearly four decades and counting, I wish I could say we find comic-related tourist attractions everywhere we go, but that’s nearly never the case. Leave it to one of the most powerful men in the comics industry ever so kindly to place one in our Baltimore path. And not just comics — Geppi’s Entertainment Museum is a haven for collectible 20th-century pop culture in general.
Its founder and namesake is Steve Geppi, also the founder and owner of Diamond Comics Distributors, the near-monopolistic juggernaut through which the vast majority of American comic shops are required to receive their weekly comics and ancillary products. Geppi has been a leading figure in the industry since the 1970s, with Diamond rising to indispensable prominence when the tumultuous 1990s market saw the company either outliving or outright buying its competitors. In 2006 Geppi — himself a big fan of all those worlds — decided to try something different and opened his Entertainment Museum on the second floor of the former B&O Railroad Station, with its exhibits curated out of his own enormous personal collections.
The museum divides the collections into a series of themed exhibits — most permanent, a few temporary — connected by hallways covered in an endless array of art objects. Surrounding you on all sides are hundreds upon hundreds of original paintings, movie posters, comic art, artists’ sketches, and other artifacts from across the various, wondrous media.
As expected, the comics quotient is extremely high here. Most items are for display only, but their version of a gift shop is filled with thousands of graphic novels to buy and bring home as souvenirs after you’re done perusing the covers of the classics.
Comic books and comic book accessories naturally comprise the bulk of the museum, but they’re not the sole inhabitants. Toys and other forms of ancient licensed merchandise occupy dedicated areas as a reminder that pop culture is more than just comics.
All told, Geppi’s museum was a fun place to immerse in the grand comic-book hobby, in the amazing worlds of super-heroes, and in other eminently merchandisable fictional universes. Of course I had to buy two more books to go, on top of the sizable hardcover we were still lugging around from the American Visionary Art Museum. My souvenir needs are usually few and not too heavy, but I figured I could indulge for just this one vacation. If pop culture museums become a more commonplace fixture on the American travel landscape, then it’ll be time to exercise shopping self-control.
To be continued!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]